Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin say they took the "first steps" toward mending badly strained ties between the United States and Russia at their first summit since Trump took office 18 months ago.
Putin called the July 16 talks in Helsinki "very successful and useful" and said he and Trump discussed arms control, the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, trade, and other issues.
At a joint press conference after over four hours of talks, Putin said that Trump brought up the issue of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election that put the U.S. president in office, and again repeated his denial that Moscow interfered. In response to a reporter's question, he said he had wanted Trump to win because the Republican nominee had expressed a desire to improve relations with Moscow.
Trump said that he addressed Putin "directly" about the allegations of meddling and that they spent a "great deal of time" talking about it, but did not provide details or indicate that there was any specific outcome of that discussion. Pressed by a reporter, Trump said that Putin was "strong and powerful in his denial."
Trump repeated his denial that there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia, and said the U.S. investigations into the matter have done serious damage.
The U.S. president came under additional pressure to challenge Putin on the alleged meddling -- or to call off the summit altogether -- after the U.S. Justice Department announced on July 13 that a grand jury has charged 12 Russian intelligence officers over hacking into the U.S. Democratic party and leaking stolen e-mails and other information during the presidential campaign.
Trump defended his decision to meet with Putin, saying that "diplomacy" is crucial and that "productive dialogue" with Moscow is good for the United States, Russia, and the rest of the world.
Both presidents expressed a desire for talks on arms control. Putin said that it is important to start a dialogue on nuclear weapons and that he made concrete proposals in this area. He also said Russia and the United States should hold talks on extending the 2010 New START treaty, which put new limits on the size of the two countries' nuclear arsenals.